Chile have one foot in the last 16 after Mark Gonzalez’s headed goal took them to victory against ten man Switzerland. Gonzalez struck in the 75th minute and Chile squandered a hat full of second half chances after Valon Behrami controversially saw red before the break.
The game followed a similar pattern to Chile’s first Group H win over Honduras. Switzerland were disgracefully negative and the South Americans dominated possession and territory. In the end, 1-0 was a disappointing winning margin for a team who could and should have won by more.
Behrami was dismissed for throwing an arm in the direction of Arturo Vidal out by the touchline. Saudi referee Khalil al Ghamdi was card happy throughout, booking nine players in total, and issued a straight red card for violent conduct. The red card certainly seemed harsh and Vidal made everything he could out of the minimal contact but by the letter of the law Behrami had to go.
The sending off only reinforced Ottmar Hitzfeld’s decision to sit deep and hope to score on the break. A draw would have suited the Swiss following their shock win over Spain and they displayed a shocking lack of ambition throughout.
Early on Chile struggled to break down an opposition who had kept a record equalling five consecutive World Cup clean sheets before today. They were restricted to shots from distance and the fit again Humberto Suazo struggled to make an impact. The best chance of the first half fell to Alexis Sanchez who cushioned Jean Beausejour’s cross exquisitely only to hit the half volley straight into the arms of Diego Benaglio.
At half time Marcelo Bielsa introduced Gonzalez and Jorge Valdivia in place of Suazo and Vidal. Chile continued to push for a breakthrough and Switzerland retreated in search of a point. At times Hitzfeld’s side operated in something approaching a 6-2-1 formation.
Four minutes after the break Sanchez had the ball in the net. His low drive from the edge of the box was deflected past Benaglio but the goal was ruled out for offside. Chile continued to huff and puff with little success until Sanchez picked the pocket of Steve von Bergen and raced through on goal. Few could believe it when he placed his shot directly into Benaglio’s chest with only the goalkeeper to beat.
By the 68th minute Switzerland had passed Italy’s record for most World Cup minutes without conceding and Chile looked to be running out of ideas. It was Valdivia who came up with the moment of inspiration La Roja needed, hitting a lovely through ball into the path of fellow substitute Esteban Paredes who evaded the on-rushing Benaglio before crossing for Gonzalez to nod in at the far post.
Switzerland were now forced to leave the trenches and the game began to open up. Paredes should have doubled the lead, blazing the ball over when through on goal after an incisive Chile counter attack. The Colo Colo striker then beat von Bergen before dragging the ball wide when very well placed.
Chile were almost made to pay for their profligacy in injury time. The Swiss had looked threatening from set pieces and when Ziegler’s cross found Derdiyok unmarked on the penalty spot an equaliser looked inevitable. Inexplicably, the striker pushed the ball wide and the game was Chile’s.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side will qualify if they avoid defeat against Spain on the final day of World Cup group games. Switzerland must beat Honduras to stand any chance of qualification. While the red card was questionable, the Swiss deserved nothing more from a game in which they showed no attacking intent. There was to be no repeat of the mugging they inflicted on Spain last week.
The negatives for Chile mainly centre on their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal. Bielsa will be desperate for Suazo to return to full fitness and form as goal difference could yet come into play. Spain’s 2-0 win over Honduras leaves them tied with Switzerland on three points with Chile on six. Honduras look doomed.